Natasha Chandel is not your typical Indian girl. The Dubai-born, Canada-raised entertainer is confident, intelligent, sharp-witted, unapologetic, and is known to have no filters, especially while discussing her dating life, her “sexcapades,” and sex in general — topics that are still considered taboo in South Asian communities. Not to forget her standup comedy routine, filled with expletives and risqué content.
“My comedy is not clean,” she says. “Ever since I was a kid, I can’t help it.” She doesn’t curse at people, but she curses a lot. “So I will never say f**k you, but I’ll say f**k this, f**k that, and that’s just how I talk,” she says. “And I also talk about c*nts, I say why c*n* is the greatest compliment you can give somebody.” She discusses people who don’t want to take the vaccine, “because they are worried about what they are putting in their body.” But, “we’ve all been single,” she says, “and we lick strangers b**l sacks and cl**s.” And those are her kind of jokes. “It’s difficult to have clean comedy.”
The young writer, actress, comedian and podcaster who performs her routine mostly around Los Angeles, where she currently lives, is known for her podcast “Kinda Dating,” where she highlights all aspects of relationships. Along with a guest, she breaks down topics from “How to Slide in Her DM” to “Love Addiction,” and “Can Friends With Benefits Really Work?” to “Embracing Being Single.” The podcast explores one dating topic at a time, with experienced, unique points of view, and tries to answer the proverbial question: “why the f**k do we all have commitment issues,” according to the show’s synopsis. It is mainly geared toward millennials and GenZers.
In a Zoom interview with American Kahani, Chandel talked about her podcast and her stand-up routines, her growing-up years in Canada, her move to America and her career graph. Along the way she shared some jokes as well.
In 2016, when Chandel first heard about the medium of podcast, she thought “it is was a great space, a great way for me to express my beliefs, and talk about the things I am passionate about.” And since she was known for her dating life, she wanted “to create something where I could tell people the stuff I wish I knew when I was younger.” That’s how “Kinda Dating” was born. “It’s basically a comedy dating podcast where a celebrity or an expert guest and I break down one dating topic per episode. And the joke is we try to figure out why everyone has commitment issues.” The name “Kinda Dating,” was chosen “because no one says they are in a relationship anymore.”
In the podcast, Chandel speaks from the point of view of a former commitment-phobe. “I used to be this hardcore relationship girl, I was in these back-to-back long relationships.” And then she got into an abusive relationship. When she came out of that, she became a commitment-phobe. “I was like ‘can’t beat them, join them,” she says. “And I talk about it very openly, I spent five and half years just fg around. “Thankfully, a lot of therapy and self-worth later,” she came out of that. “Not that there’s anything wrong with that,” she points out, adding that she came to a point where she was just so unfulfilled. And now Chandel is what she calls “a reformed commitment-phobe,” which means that she still has the “tendency to want to run,” but has the tools,” to tell herself to “breathe” and “calm down.”
Chandel doesn’t believe that “the commitment-phobe is only the f**kboy, like they are not the douchebags. It’s the person dating the douchebag, because you know better, and still, you are choosing to do these things.” And it is from these experiences that Chandel uses the podcast to tell her viewers to realize the repercussions of their decisions, “how to take personal accountability, and make different decisions, and make better choices for yourself.”
But it’s not all serious. “We try to do it with a little levity, otherwise it gets so heavy,” she says, adding, “we try to not give cliched advice.” Chandel is “very open” about the fact that she’s Indian. “I came from a semi-conservative background, but I’m also a comedian, and I truly broke my parents’ spirit very early, [so I am at a place] where I can do what I do now,” she says. “I’ve never had a traditional life, I left home, Canada, alone on a bus very early; I lived with my ex, who was white, and it wasn’t a secret.”
Chandel’s transparency has earned her many fans. “I get a lot of messages from Indian girls, who say they appreciate my being like this because they have never heard any Indian girls talking about these issues,” she says. “And I’m like, all my girlfriends are Indian and I know they are all having sex,” she says, adding: “And why are we going to feel apologetic here; guys don’t, and why should we.”
The podcast gives her “a very empowered way of looking at things.” She refuses to feel violated. “If I do something it’s because I have chosen to participate in something and that’s not taking anything away from me. So I don’t feel any kind of guilt or insecurity.”
It is something she tells her young viewers. “Never have sex because you are trying to convince him, or you want him to stay; have sex because you want to have sex. And then it’s fine,” she says. “You won’t feel bad about it in the end, because you got your piece and they got their piece.” It’s only when we condition women to use sex to please the man, “I say no, f**k that,” she adds. “Do it only if you want to, if you don’t want to, don’t.”
In her personal life as well, “there are people she never slept with because she didn’t feel it, she notes. But with a lot of other people, she felt an instant attraction. “The idea is that it should be your own decision and you should have agency over it and it should come from a place of security and confidence,” she says. “And I think that’s a universal story, but I do definitely put it into context to what it means to be a South Asian.”
Along with her podcast and comedy, Chandel is what she calls “a multi-hyphenate.” She knew since she was 7 that she wanted to be in entertainment, and dabbled in theater and improv. By high school, she had made her mind to go to theater school. But when she told her parents “shot down” the idea, she changed her career path.
At age 16, she landed a job at a local TV station and gradually moved up the ranks, and was running four live shows. A year later, the network asked her to be a news reporter. Her first news story established her as a “good” writer, and she was assigned to write a historical documentary for the City of Brampton’s 150th anniversary. Despite her initial skepticism, she said yes, and worked for a year with a historian. She didn’t realize that she was producing the documentary along the way as well. “So when it [the documentary] finally came out, I got my first writing and producing credit.” It also ended up winning a Telly and a Galaxy award.
However, with the lack of writing jobs in Canada in the medium of her choice, Chandel went into production and also went to university. After graduating, she landed an internship in New York City. And by the time she returned home, she had another goal. She wanted to live there and work for MTV.
Between graduation and her internship, Chandel starred in a short film, “Priya,” that caught the eye of NBC. The network wrote to her asking her to move to New York. Chandel, who was at the time doing “some series regular” roles in shows in Canada, moved to the Big Apple, “on a visa mostly for acting.”
She eventually landed a job at MTV, thanks to “Mumbai Chopra: Misadventures of an It Girl,” a series she wrote, directed and starred in. “It was the first scripted Indian comedy web series on the Internet,” she explains. “I did 28 episodes and three seasons of the show, and that got me a first-look deal at Viacom and that’s what got me my job at MTV.”
After working at MTV for four years as a writer and producer, she moved to Los Angeles “to be in scripted television.” Her journey on the west coast began with a stint on Fox’s “Utopia,” after which she got staffed at Maker Studios. Two-and-a-half years later, when Disney took over Maker Studios, Chandel got laid off along with 75 percent of the staff.
“I always say it was the best thing that could happen to me because I could finally do what I wanted to do, which is writing.” She wrote “Coconut,” a pilot about an Indian American girl from the south, who moves to New York. She has also worked on Netflix’s “Mr. Iglesias,” where she wrote on season two of the comedy.
Whether it’s “Mumbai Chopra,” “Coconut,” or the podcast, Chandel was always ahead of her time. “One of my skills has been to sort of see the medium before other people do.” She admits that maneuvering multiple roles at a time when it wasn’t the “in thing,” has been a challenge. “I just create and if I get inspired to create something; that’s all that drives me,” she says. “It’s not like I’m trying to take on more hats, it’s like that’s what’s speaking to me.
And it’s no surprise that Chandel is inspired by people like Tina Fey, Issa Rae and Mindy Kaling. “They are actresses who are writers, they produce, they are my inspirations. And the people I look up to.” She points out that if “you are an actor, you can just sit around waiting for a role to come, or you can write it yourself. And go ahead and produce it.”
However, creating her own content doesn’t absolve her from the struggles of representation and diversity. “As a creator, I obviously have a lot more control over what I create, but I can’t control how others perceive that material,” she says, and gives an example of her experience with “Mumbai Chopra.” Chandel says she was “proud” of the series because the protagonist was “an Indian, she was sexy, she wasn’t smart, she was dumb, and the show had nothing to do with her being Indian.” The name Mumbai Chopra came after Paris Hilton, “it was a parody, the whole thing was a satire on Hollywood, that the Hiltons and the Chopras must’ve been best friends, because they have a daughter they named after their favorite city, Paris, and the Chopras named their daughter after their favorite city, Mumbai,” she explains. “But when I would tell people about the series, they often wondered if I shot it in India.”
As a writer, Chandel says she’s “constantly had to fight with this idea” of diversity in characters. “I don’t write arranged marriage stories, I don’t do things that show us in a stereotypical light,” she says. At the same time, she admits that “there are parts of our culture that are traditional, but can we still write them in a way that we understand where they are coming from,” she notes. “Some of that falls on us, and slowly, we can hopefully help break the way we perceive us.”
Whether it’s “Mumbai Chopra,” the satire on Hollywood, or “Coconut,” a story about taking prejudice and flipping it, what’s important to Chandel is “when I create anything is to push back against this thing that society has told us about representation and diversity.” She mostly does blind casting, “unless there’s something very specific,” like a family member. “Because my world has been diverse, truly, and so it’s a commitment of mine to not create stereotypical characters and also not be someone who’s stereotypical.”
She has a joke about her Indian heritage in her stand-up routine. “Hey guys, I’m Indian Canadian and I am probably the purest Indian you have ever met, there’s no mixup in my lineage. And I feel like I have to tell you guys that is because stop talking to me in Spanish.” The joke stemmed from how people perceived her, especially after her move to the U.S. In Canada, Chandel, who is “half Sindhi, half Rajput,” was considered “relatively fair,” but in America, people would question the origin of her name; she would have to tell them that “Natasha is a very popular Indian name.”
She says she feels “for her Indian sisters who have faced colorism in a different way — that they are too dark.” And then, “there’s some of us who’ve been called too light to be Indian.” Initially, Chandel had a hard time getting Indian roles, “they didn’t see me as an Indian, they didn’t believe that I am Indian.” And she “would always go for Hispanic,” making her “ethnically ambiguous.” But she’s also “trying to rush back and say there’s a billion of us — I have girlfriends who have green eyes, and blondish hair; and my girlfriend is Sindhi — she’s porcelain white.”
Some of her jokes make her audience uncomfortable, but for her, it’s important that “in my writing and anything I create, I basically address all these issues.” She has “a lot of social commentary and I kind of veil all of that in my standup comedy, that’s kind of my approach.”
Recently, Chandel did a show for a desi girls’ night out. She was expecting a young crowd, and “didn’t realize all these aunties and uncles in the audience.” And she was making all these jokes about — “sorry uncle, masturbation,” she recalls saying at one point. “But it was funny because the other comedians came and told me that they saw everybody smiling but they couldn’t laugh because their parents were there or vice versa.” An uncle came to her after the show, and when she apologized for being edgy, he told her that she wasn’t “edgy enough.” I hope “we Indians light up a bit,” she says. “These are just jokes.”